Karel Schwarzenberg
Karel SchwarzenbergEJP

The Czech Republic, which takes over the European Union's rotating presidency this week, takes Israel’s side in the conflict with Hamas.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who will become the EU’s president for the coming six months, told the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily newspaper that Hamas had excluded itself from serious political debate due to its rocket attacks on Israel.

Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? … I enjoy the luxury of telling the truth.

He also indirectly blamed the terrorist group for its own growing death toll by placing its military bases and gun warehouses in densely populated areas.

"Let us realize one thing,” Schwarzenberg said. “Hamas steeply increased the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more.”

He further said, "Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? … I enjoy the luxury of telling the truth.”

Schwarzenberg has said that he will work for closer relations between the EU and Israel.

EU Calls for End to Violence

The EU itself has called for a bilateral end to the violence that has killed almost 350 Gazans – practically all of them terrorists – and four Israeli citizens.  France, the EU’s outgoing leader, condemned both Israel and Hamas, saying that Israel has displayed a "disproportionate use of force."

US Supports Israel

U.S. President George W. Bush, vacationing at his Texas ranch, has not spoken publicly about Gaza this week.  White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe says there are no plans for that to change. “Hamas has once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization that refuses to even recognize Israel's right to exist,” Johndroe said. “In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire.”

UN Condemns Both

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is “deeply alarmed by the current escalation of violence in and around Gaza. This is unacceptable.”  Doling out equal blame to both Hamas and Israel, he said, “I have been repeatedly condemning the rocket attacks by Hamas militants against Israel. While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza.”

The UN leader, in a prepared statement, said he has been in touch with regional and world leaders, including the US Secretary of State, and that he expects them to take more action to “end the violence.”  He also demanded that “Israel must keep opening all border crossings necessary for the continued provision of humanitarian supplies.”